This is what I feel like saying to everyone when I go to conferences geared toward writers, like LTUE (Life the Universe and Everything) was this past weekend. I feel the need to explain that though I am not an aspiring writer (don't you love that word.. aspiring....) I do feel like being "just a reader" is okay when it comes to soaking up the excitement and enthusiasm felt at these conferences for the written word. I love hearing the authors talk about their processes, and their genre definitions, and their take on the whole bookish community.
I love it.
Yet, I still feel this strange feeling like I'm crashing a party. But then I think, you know, I can meet and mingle with all these aspiring authors and then I can blog about them and promote them and so I do fit into the picture somehow. After all, where would writers be without readers, right?
If only I had the meet and mingle talent. Yeah, I'm not good at this, especially if I'm at an event all alone. I tend to hide in the corner and just soak up everything and observe. I don't get in the middle of it all. So, that idea doesn't really work for me either! Such is my confusion about being a reader at a writers conference!
But all that aside, here's some highlights and things I learned at the panels and discussions during the day and a half that I was able to participate:
- The authors morals and values will show in their work naturally, but if it's your INTENT to show them, then it's not going to work for your readers and will come across as preachy.
- We need more "gentle" books in the market, but they aren't commercial enough, so authors aren't writing them.
- Sometimes writing is uncomfortable because you are forced to look at and understand some things that you normally wouldn't participate in.
- Heroes need well written villains in order to make their hero victory true and worthwhile.
- J. Scott Savage did an awesome presentation on protagonists. He says they must have history, goals, motives and prejudices to make them believable. They must NOT be reactive, make random decisions, have no growth and unexpected changes of heart. A character must not be static, but must be growing OR regressing at all times.
- YA books tend to be more hopeful than adult books.
- YA books don't work if the characters are in college. Teen readers need to relate to the characters.
- Take care of yourself so you can write! If your hands hurt, stop and take a break!
- Fairy tales are awesome for a jumping off point. You take it and tell it from a different POV, or setting or with a completely new twist.
- The ability to make people feel different emotions at the same time is brilliant writing!
- Villains need to be ones you can root for. They need to have their own code of behavior. It's creepier if they are "normal" most of the time... and if you are sympathetic to them... that's even better!
James Dashner did an awesome keynote address. He called it "Lesson's I've Learned." Some were funny, like... be born, sitting in poop is bad, and don't show your high school pictures! But then he got serious (a little bit anyway) and said to all the aspiring writers: love books, pound the pavement, go to conferences, network, get an agent, learn to do good characterization, have depth and never never never never never never give up! It was very inspiring to everyone, with real simple basic advice. I loved it. Awesome job Dashner Dude!
And now for another book list. Here are the books that were mentioned over the course of the event, that I paid attention to anyway:
- Eventide by Tracy Hickman (an example of a gentle read)
- The Immortals by Tracy Hickman (a book that got him in trouble with his family a bit)
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (used as an example of protagonist development)
- Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (yes more bashing, sheesh)
- Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
- The Maze Runner by James Dashner
- Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (an adult book that looks like YA)
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (an adult book that looks like YA)
- Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud (YA books that could be adult)
- The Giver by Lois Lowry (a YA book that could be adult)
- Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis (religion in SF)
- Dune by Frank Herbert (religion in SF)
- Matched by Ally Condie (an example of a YA book who's character has a family)
- The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal (where the character's sense of belonging is tested)
- The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff (another where the character doesn't fit in their family)
- Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt
- Terribly Twisted Tales (fractured fairy tales)
- American Gods by Neil Gaiman (based on mythology)
- Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey (a new take on vampires)
- The Survivors by Dan Willis (cool villains)
- I am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells (funny? horror)
- Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George (her latest... a retelling of Cinderella, but a sequel to Princess of the Midnight Ball)
So, in the end, even though I am "just a reader" going to a writing conference is a blast and I'm sure I'll be back next year! Maybe I can learn how to mingle just a teeny tiny bit more by then....and it will only be my fifth try at it!